For a year, from the first day of summer 2012 through the last day of spring 2013, I wrote a journal. No one has read it. No one would want to.
It was a whim, a nod to compulsion that probably wouldn’t hurt and who knew? Might have produced something interesting, at least to me, although so far that’s not really the case. It started as just data, mostly to track the days in case we had freaky weather or something interesting happened.
And something did, right away. There’s this, for example, from June 23, 2012.
I had a bad cold and/or a sinus infection that week, something that was draining me and left me feeling fuzzy all the time, so my memory is fuzzy. Another reason to journal, maybe.
But I can practically guarantee you that this first meeting didn’t inspire any fantasies of filmmaking. It was vaguely interesting but I mostly considered the whole idea sort of absurd, and expected to decline. Arthur needed a real actor. Not a once-actor.
By the middle of July, though, I was on board, although it felt so far off that the whole notion seemed abstract, barely past daydreaming. Maybe it would happen. Maybe not. We’d have a whole year, anyway, to figure that out.
In August I met the rest of the cast – Megan and Jake; I’d first met Ellen 20 years before – to take some photos for the website. In November we filmed a short scene (I was a voice on the phone only) for reasons I now can’t remember, but that’s when I met Julia Bruk, who would end up as our Director of Photography; Kjell Hansen, who ran sound on that first day and ended up wearing so many hats Arthur made him an associate producer; and Case Barden, who’d serve as producer.
And there were more meetings and lots of emails and video chats and back-and-forths, and then it was summer and we filmed, and then we were done. I’d stopped journaling by then, and I didn’t feel fuzzy at all.
I’d check in occasionally, visited Arthur in his editing suite one day, did the sound studio work, etc. Eventually I’d watch entire scenes, although most of the film (and a lot of the actual filming) remains unseen by me.
And I never saw Paris. Absolutely not. Not even close.
It’s not like I knew much about the indie filmmaking world anyway. I understood there were film festivals. I understood that there were film distributors. I understood that we were small, very small, so small. Barely a budget, no name actors (although Ellen would change that dynamic quite a bit, becoming suddenly a celebrity from being the voice of probably the most iconic artificial intelligence since HAL 9000, GLaDOS in the video game Portal), no publicist, no potential distributors, and a few rejection letters from festivals (after one pass at a full edit; there would be five more. More to come).
And here we are, all the same. US in Progress, devoted to pushing American independent filmmaking, partnering with the Champs-Élysées Film Festival in Paris over the past three years, picked Winning Dad as one of four films in postproduction to present to European distributors and others. Never saw it coming. Glad it came.
So we sent our film and its creator to France, and the news was fun. A good response, lots of it apparently, and lots of help and advice. From what we can tell, given our exhausted leader’s brief but emotional posts on social media.
And at the risk of dipping into the metaphor pool and finding the same old stuff, it not only feels affirming but life-giving. We made the damn puppet. In order for it to come alive, somebody had to see it. And now somebody has.
Winning Dad is a real movie. We knew that. It’s still nice to say out loud.
I had a meeting scheduled for 2:40 yesterday afternoon. I was thinking about it on Wednesday, and suddenly realized that the main reason we set the meeting up for that day was to assess something that was supposed to have happened, but as it turned out got postponed.
I’ve already lost you. Never mind. I canceled an appointment, which meant that I didn’t need the car, which meant that my wife didn’t have to get up early and take a bus into Seattle. She could just drive and come home after her last class if she wanted. It’s a busy time for your college professors, in this area, as classes are ending and finals approaching.
If she had taken the bus, she probably would have hung around longer. Done some grading. Taken her time. Waited for the right bus to get her home, after I was back from my appointment so I could pick her up at the Park and Ride. I mean. It’s not hard to graph out. She would have still been there.
Not that I’m doing this. Even if we get to make the what-if rules and only change one fact, that she didn’t leave the campus of Seattle Pacific University and was still there when Aaron Ybarra entered Otto Miller Hall and started shooting, we can’t really construct a scenario where she’s anywhere near the line of fire. It would have just meant that she would have been there a lot longer than she intended, in lockdown with the rest, probably comforting and doing the things she’s trained to do.
So what-ifs don’t bother me today. Not worth my time. She left before Ybarra started shooting. That’s how it happened.
What bothers me today is the callousness I read yesterday afternoon on social media, even some mild joking. A 19-year-old young man, probably a freshman or sophomore, went to school on a beautiful Seattle spring day, and now he’s dead, and his family is doing the what-if thing and are grieving and in shock, and some jerk on Facebook is making comments that sound light-hearted, even?
What bothers me today is it really wasn’t callous. It was just removed. The way I’m removed when I read horrific news, much worse news than we had here yesterday. Santa Barbara was worse. Sandy Hook was so much worse. Virginia Tech, and so on.
What bothers me today is that for a few hours yesterday, I got stuck inside the bubble of proximity terror. I was on the SPU campus last weekend. My wife has taught there for years. It’s a small school, a tight community, a family. She sat with her phone and her iPad and the local news on, and waited to hear from her students. Students who very well could have been in Otis Miller Hall. Before we knew everything, before we knew anything.
It made me think about empathy, and how it works in a constant-information world. Nobody was being callous yesterday, or desensitized. They just didn’t know anybody involved, and they’ve heard this song before. Many times.
So I learned what it’s like to be on the inside, just a little. To see familiar streets from the copter shots, barricaded and swarming with law enforcement. To see familiar buildings with stretchers outside, waiting. To completely shut down for a few hours, waiting for news, processing horror, processing relief. Processing proximity.
This was close to home. I just have a feeling home got a lot bigger, and the news a lot more personal, and the empathy a lot more intense. Next time it won’t be here. It’ll just feel like it.
Late at night, when I was 12 or so, lying in bed and waiting for sleep, I discovered that closing one eye turned even the darkness blurry. I think I just wondered about this for a while, then brought it up one day to my mother, who had me stop by the school nurse to get a quick eye exam.
Half of my world was, in fact, blurry. Bad vision was nothing new in my family, with the exception of Dad, who only needed reading glasses when that time came, as it always does.
Glasses back then were pretty basic, with nothing much changing over the decades. I got a pair of black-rimmed Clark Kent glasses, and of course I hated them.
And of course I had one eye with 20/20 vision, which meant I compensated and could see fine without the glasses, which I wore as seldom as possible. In a couple of years wire frames were the fashion in eye wear, and I liked those better. Still, there were plenty of times when I ditched the glasses. Sometimes I wore contacts. Sometimes I just relied on my good eye, knowing it was bearing the burden of binocular vision, and evenually it got pretty bad too. Still, look at my wedding pictures (some 13 years after the first pair of glasses) and nope, no glasses. Maybe contacts, but I remember still being comfortable even driving well into my 20s without any correction at all. A little squinting at road signs, maybe.
Because of my astigmatism, I needed special contacts, more expensive, and aside from that brief period (it seemed) when I could wear contacts 24/7 for a week at a time (do they still make those? Or did people go blind and they stopped?), I just wore those same basic 1974-era wire rim frames, with one deviation in the 1980s when glasses got VERY BIG and weird.
So this past winter, as I was in Austin with my daughter and whining about the need to make changes of all sorts, she first suggested I get my hair cut shorter (turned out fine), and after that she brought up new frames. Just update the old guy a little.
That’s the picture you see above, assuming you’re at the actual blog and not reading this through a feed. And, in one of those funny life things, I picked pretty much the pair I had in the seventh grade that I hated. It’s sort of like broccoli. We reevaluate.
They’re heavier, making it less easy to slide up and down to read small print (I’ve stuck with single-vision lenses, even though I’ve needed bifocals for years, because I work so much on the computer, big monitors, and thought it wasn’t worth the trouble. I just take them off to read at night).
Sort of forgot about my phone, though. I get messages and there are no arms long enough to read those without moving those heavy black glasses, so maybe an error was made there.
Or maybe LASIK. Or, since I have incipient cataracts, very early but predictive, I’ll just wait for an internal lens and a quick surgery.
It’s less of a deal than I make it, but more of a deal than it was, and just funny that it turned out to be such a throwback. And the broccoli is just a tiny bit clearer.